Thursday, 31 December 2020

Iron Savior - Skycrest (2020)

Country: Germany
Style: Heavy/Power Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 4 Dec 2020
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Hopefully this will be a lucky thirteenth album for Iron Savior, only a year after their previous effort, Kill or Get Killed. In fact, it's their sixth in seven years, 2018 being the only year since 2013 when they didn't release a new studio album (though, to be fair, one was a redux). They seem to have a real thirst nowadays and next year will mark a silver anniversary for them, at least under this name. They really go even further back to a cover band called Gentry to which lead vocalist Piet Sielck and guitarist Kai Hansen had belonged in school. The line-up here is as it was last time out and the time before that, so there's consistency here. There have actually only been two line-up changes since 2003.

Anyone who enjoyed Kill or Get Killed will enjoy this too, because it does much of the same thing, at a similar sort of generous length and with similar effect. As with that album, the consistency is both a positive and a negative aspect because, while there are no poor tracks here, the lesser ones can fade in the shadow of the greater ones. It's power metal with plenty of heavy and plenty of speed, but always melody. Almost all these songs are up tempo and in your face, but with that German flair for melody that we remember from classic Helloween and all the bands who came in their wake.

Overall, I think this is an improvement on that one, which I thought was strong already. The melodies feel a little catchier and the riffs a little meatier. Some of the songs here even started to get stuck in my head before I finished listening to them a first time, such as End of the Rainbow, whose infectious chorus should be all over rock radio, the title track and Ode to the Brave, which open and close the album in style.

Oddly, End of the Rainbow is bookended by the two songs that stand out as different from the norm. Raise the Flag lowers the pace, making it sound more like a straight heavy metal song without all the usual power metal elements or maybe even a hard rock number with metal guitars. It's not a bad song at all, but it's the only one here to take that approach, so it seems rather out of place. Ease Your Pain is a power ballad and a surprisingly good one to my ears, being well aware that my pain threshold for power ballads has increased with age.

This album felt like a palate cleanser on a first listen. Whatever crap was going on in my head, I felt a bit happier and a bit more focused after playing this through. Initial highlights were the title track, which opens up proceedings after a surprisingly electronic intro; Our Time Has Come, which kicks into high gear and just barrels along from the outset like the faster songs that used to begin Dio albums; and that magnificently catchy number, End of the Rainbow.

A second listen underlines all that but ensures that we realise that many of the other tracks are pretty fine too. This is definitely a catchier album than the prior one, with Hellbreaker, Welcome to the New World and Silver Bullet all staking their claims not far behind those other highlights. And the more I listen, the better this album feels. At some point during my first time through, I wondered if it would deserve an 8/10. At some point during my second, I realised that I'd marked half the dozen tracks down as highlights. So yeah, 8/10 is a gimme.

This is a great way to wrap up a year. Here's to next year's Iron Savior album in advance!

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